Excerpts from a poem by Roy Campbell

While Echo pined into a shade,
Narcissus, by the water’s shelf,
Met with a lurking death, and made
An alligator of himself.

Of many selves we all possess
My meanest has the most persisted,
The one that joined the N.F.S.
When half humanity enlisted.

A shifty and insidious ghost,
Of all my selves he is the one,
Though it’s with him I meet the most,
I’d go the longest way to shun.

Out of the mirrors in hotels
He makes for me, but as I pass,
Recedes into their glazing wells
And leaves no ripples on the glass.

Along the windows of the shops,
And in the tankard’s curving base,
I have surprised him as he drops
Into the void without a trace.

He shaves the surfaces: he snails
His sheeny track along the walls:
The windows seem a myriad scales
Through which an endless serpent crawls.

His form is one, his number legion:
He incubates in hushed platoons,
Denizens of the glassy region
And of the vitreous lagoons.

Each time I step into the street
I multiply his gliding swarms,
Along the panes to launch a fleet
Of bloodless and reptilian forms.

Within his heart, so chilled and squamous,
He knows I’ve but to sell my pride
To make him safe, and rich, and famous;
And he would fatten if I died.

In feigned petition from the sash
He swerves to me, and I from him:
But if one day you hear a splash,
You’ll know he’s fastened on a limb.

No ripple on the glassy frame
Will show you where a man was drowned;
But Echo, practising his Fame,
Will pine once more into a sound.